According to a report by Setanta Sports it would appear that 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty is contemplating his retirement from the professional game, but could Crafty Ken really be about to hang up his cue?
It has been a strange couple of years for Ken, indeed off the table a great period, becoming a father for the first time with the birth of baby Christian and also becoming an increasingly prominent figure as part of the BBC TV coverage, both as a pundit and a commentator at the recent Masters event.
On the table though it has been nothing short of a nightmare since he won the Pot Black event in 2007, tumbling from the provisional number one spot that he held briefly coming into the 2007 World Championship, down out of the top 16 at the end of last season. Unfortunately things have not got any better this season and having experienced 5-0 defeats to Judd Trump and John Parrott, as well as a 5-1 reverse against Jimmy White, he now finds himself down in 37th on the very latest list.
So will he quit? Although the Setanta article makes it sound almost certain, the fact that there are no direct quotes from Ken to back it up leaves me sceptical. At 39 his best years might be behind him, but other former world champions like John Parrott and Steve Davis have shown that it is possible to play well in into their forties (fifties in Steve’s case), as well as make regular appearances for the BBC. Ken also showed in the World Series this season that he still has the talent, beating Mark Selby and pushing Ding Junhui hard in the final.
But it is the ranking events that really count and with just two wins to his name so far this season, Ken is in serious danger of dropping out of the top 32, leaving him needing two wins next season if he is to appear at the big venues. This is significant because with needing just one win to make the venues, it might not be seen as such a big issue but once it gets to two or more, those big tournaments begin to look quite distant.
As one of my all-time favourite players in the game I am sad to see Ken struggling like he is now. He is such a top guy away from the table that I can’t imagine that anyone will have a bad word to say about him. He has time for everyone and is as down to earth as anyone in the sport, particularly impressive when you consider just how good a player he has been down the years.
I hope that he can do well in the Welsh Open and in particular the World Championship qualifiers and who knows, perhaps cling onto a place in the top 32. If so then I suspect that he will carry on as while I am sure that his family life and BBC work will keep him happy, he still has a lot to give as a player. Whatever decision he takes I will support him however, as I hope will the rest of his many fans.